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Worried about kids getting fat? Maybe get a dog

Sept. 21, 2010
Courtesy of St George's, University of London
and World Science staff

Chil­dren whose fam­i­lies have a dog spend on average 11 less min­utes per day sit­ting on their be­hinds than those with­out ca­nines in the house­hold, a study in Eng­land has found. That’s 11 more min­utes en­ga­ged in at least some phys­i­cal ac­ti­vity than other child­ren.

A new study may show that get­ting a dog helps get chil­dren act­ive, re­search­ers say. But it al­so might simply show that more ac­tive fam­i­lies are more likely to get a pooch. (Im­age cour­te­sy Ci­ty of Tam­pa, Fla.)


The re­search­ers said this may mean get­ting a dog helps get chil­dren on the move and com­bat child­hood obes­ity. But it al­so might simply show that more ac­tive fam­i­lies tend to get pooches.

“It may be a bit of both,” said ep­i­de­mi­olo­gist Chris­to­pher Ow­en of St. George’s, Uni­vers­ity of Lon­don, lead au­thor of the stu­dy, pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health. “If chil­dren really are go­ing for walk­ies with their dog, this may be one way to en­cour­age more kids to be ac­tive.”

Ow­en and col­leagues stud­ied 2,065 chil­dren aged nine to ten from schools in Lon­don, Bir­ming­ham and Leices­ter, U.K. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors used ac­ti­vity mon­i­tors to rec­ord the chil­dren’s daily move­ment lev­els over sev­en days. 

About one in ten of the young­sters had dogs, and these chil­dren spent an av­er­age of 325 min­utes do­ing phys­i­cal ac­ti­vity per day, the re­search­ers re­ported. These chil­dren were al­so found to take 360 more steps, or four pe­rcent, on aver­age than dog­less kids.

“Is it that own­ing a dog makes you more ac­tive or that more ac­tive fam­i­lies choose to have a dog? It’s a bit of a chick­en and egg ques­tion. Long-term stud­ies are needed to an­swer it,” Ow­en said. “Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have com­pared adult ac­ti­vity lev­els be­fore and af­ter get­ting a dog, and found that they do be­come more ac­tive af­terwards.”


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Children whose families have a dog spend 11 less minutes per day sitting on their behinds than those without canines in the household, a study in England has found. That’s 11 more minutes engaged in at least some physical activity, according to the study from St. George’s, University of London. The researchers said this may mean getting a dog could help get children on the move and combat childhood obesity. But it also might simply mean that more active families are more likely to get a pooch. “It may be a bit of both,” said epidemiologist Christopher Owen, lead author of the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health. “If children really are going for walkies with their dog, this may be one way to encourage more kids to be active.” Owen and colleagues studied 2,065 children aged nine to ten from schools in London, Birmingham and Leicester, U.K. The investigators used activity monitors to record the children’s daily movement levels over seven days. About one in ten of the children had dogs, and these children spent an average of 325 minutes doing physical activity per day, the researchers reported. The youths were also found to take 360 more steps, or four percent, than the others. “Is it that owning a dog makes you more active or that more active families choose to have a dog? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Long-term studies are needed to answer it,” Owen said. “Previous studies have compared adult activity levels before and after getting a dog, and found that they do become more active afterwards.”